Sunday, June 17, 2018

Neon News & Links

 From the another-one-bites-the dust department: Armando's, redsauce stalwart of Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights, has gone to neon's the great beyond.  

(T. Rinaldi)

 Via the Jeremiah's Vanishing New York blog: in midtown Manhattan, high rent blight is encroaching on Cambridge Liquors and its great, gritty corner.   

(T. Rinaldi)

 Also from JVNY, word that 8th Avenue's Show World Center has peeped its last, bringing down the curtain on one of the last vestiges of Times Square's bad old days. 

(T. Rinaldi)

 From the still-more-bad-news-from-Jeremiahs-Vanishing-New-York department, say goodbye to B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill on 42nd Street, a latterday neon landmark of Times Square.  

(T. Rinaldi)

 By way of the Ephemeral New York blog, tributes to three neon landmarks past and present:  

  > Jack Dempsey's, a bygone neon staple on 8th Avenue  
  > Julian's, a long-vanished 14th Street pool hall.
  > The 20th Century Garage and its forgotten cinematic past.
(Ephemeral New York)

 From way out west, another incredible tour-de-neon from Debra Jane Seltzer.  

 From Greenpoint, Brooklyn, two more neon death notices on a single block: J. Smolenski Funeral Home has shuttered, and J. Joseph's Furniture & Appliances has closed and been demolished for new luxury residential construction. 

Gone and gonner:  J. Smolenski and J. Josephs, neon neighbors on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint. (T. Rinaldi)

 For the fake neon enthusiast, Bud Lite's Post Malone Dive Bar Tour has gone for the gold on Instagram.  

 From the not-neon-but-still-cool department, a fabulous graphic tribute to New York in the 80s from Ilya Milstein via the NYT Style Mag. or the fake neon enthusiast, Bud Lite's Post Malone Dive Bar Tour has gone for the gold on Instagram.  

 And finally, from the let's-try-to-end-on-something-positive department - a super awesome looking outdoor exhibit of old neon signs has been installed in Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway.  

(Chris Christo / Boston Herald)

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Ephemeral Landmarks of the Eternal City

In a city known for older, more monumental landmarks, the ancient neon signs of Rome tend to get lost in the fray.  Yet 20th century Romans embraced neon as much as anyone, and the city has the commercial archeology to prove it. 

UPIM, 169 Via del Tritone

When I first visited Rome as a kid, its neon signs were one of the first things I noticed.  I remember my amusement in reading projecting signs backwards when approaching them from the "wrong" side.  Unlike neon signs back in the US, whose lettering was typically mounted over solid sheet metal sign faces, projecting signs in Rome were characterized by an open latticework of neon tubes attached to an almost invisible framework. 

UPIM in reverse. 

In addition to using half as much neon tubing, this approach required almost none of the costly metalwork involved in typical North American signs of the same period.  Especially in postwar Europe, with resources scarce, this must have represented a critical savings.  The same technique, I later learned, can be found elsewhere in Europe and Latin America as well.

Scene from "Boccaccio '70" (1962)

Rome has so much great old commercial signage that it once occurred to me there might be enough here for a book dedicated to the subject.  As it happens, that book has already been written:  Louise Fili's fantastic "Grafica Della Strada," published in 2014, is as fine an homage to the subject as one can conjure.  (Fili has issued companion volumes for Paris and Barcelona.)  

"Grafica della Strada" by Louise Fili.  

Like most tourists in Rome, my attention on that first visit was usurped by the usual suspects - the Forum, the Vatican - some of the most photographed places on the planet.  But on subsequent visits, my interest gravitated towards more ephemeral parts of the Roman cityscape.  Now, 20-odd years later, the Colosseum and the Pantheon look pretty much as they have since the advent of photography.  The big UPIM sign on Via del Tritone however has vanished forever.  Rome's other neon signs seem similarly destined to be outlived by the ancient buildings from which they hang.  When they go, these relics of the Rome of Fellini and De Sica will take with them a certain magic from the streets whose character they helped define for generations.  Over in the forum, though, I doubt anyone will take much notice.  

Ristorante Veneto (Closed) / Via del Viminale 15

Il Messaggero / Via del Tritone 154

Ristorante Da Giggetto / Via del Portico D'Ottavia 21a-22

Calzature Ugo Celli / Via Arenula 86

Ditta G. Spizzichino Di Spizzichino Ester / Via di Santa Maria del Pianto 18

Ristorante Alfredo alla Scofa (Il Vero Alfredo) / Piazza Augusto Imperatore 30

Fiori Romano (L'Angoletto Romano) / Via Tomacelli 20

Antichità / Largo della Fontanella di Borghese

Tabacchi Verni Emanuele / Piazzale Prenestino 20

Frutteria / 5 Via Raimondo Montecuccoli

Ristorante da Robertino / Via Panisperna 231

Barbiere / for the life of me I can't remember where this was.

A. Guidi Abbigliamento / Via Principe Eugenio 6-8

Cinema America / Via Natale del Grande 6

Antica Trattoria Bersagliere / Via Giovanni Amendola 18

Trattoria Esperia Pizzeria / Via Firenze 16-17

Trattoria Rosetta / Via della Rosetta 8-9

Albergo Sole / Via del Biscione 76

Cinema Alcazar / Via Cardinale Merry del Val 14

Hotel L’Impero / Via del Viminale 19

Farmacia Santa Agata / Piazza Sidney Sonnino 47

Chico Er Carettiere / Via Benedetta 10

Bar Sistina / Via Sistina 127 

Bar San Callisto / Piazza di S. Calisto 4

Antica Pizzicheria Ruggeri / Piazza Campo de' Fiori 1

Macelleria Fadda Giovanni / 28 Via D'Ascanio

Vittorio / Viale Trastevere 38

Trattoria Esedra / Via Principe Amedeo 3

Abbigliamento Sermoneta / Piazza del Viminale 17

L’Antica Roma Ristorante / Via dei Cappuccini

Ristorante Canova / Piazza del Popolo 16-17

F.A.M.A.R. / Piazza Unità 51

Hotel Genio / Via Giuseppe Zanardelli, 28

Autorimessa / Piazza della Trinita dei Pellegrini 28

Lana della Vecchia Merceria / Via dei Baullari 3

Al Sogno / Piazza Navona 53

San Eustachio / Piazza di S. Eustachio

Farmacia / Via Giovanni Giolitti 21

Dal Pollarolo 1936 / Via di Ripetta 4

Bar Monti / Via Urbana 93

Caffe Leonina, 68 Via Leonina

Checco er Carrettiere / Via Benedetta 6

Antico Bar Pasticceria Mariani / Via dei Pettinari 44

Trattoria Al Fagianetto / Via Filippo Turati, 21

Trattoria Giovanni, Via Filippo Turati 36

Ristorante L'Europeo da Colella Giovanni / Via Principe Amedeo 8

Ristorante La Piccola Cuccagna / Via della Cuccagna 14

Trattoria Da Giggi / Via delle Carrozze 53/54

Bar della Croce / Via della Croce 80

La Tavernella / Via Ezio 5

And lastly, calling cards from some of Rome's neon shops. 

(Cinema Paradiso)